Blogs from Gabriel Moore Tue, 03 Jan 2017 13:23:51 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Environmental benefits of a high performance, carbon neutral K-12 campus in Oberlin The mind of a growing child is an impressionable thing. As a line taken from the musical Into the Woods states, “Careful the things you say, children will listen. Careful the things you do, children will see and learn.” And in fact, majority of the things children hear and see come from the place they spend majority of their time: school. So, in light of developing a more sustainable community, what can we do in order to show the youth the importance of practices that aid the environment rather than being detrimental to it? And how can we then expand that to the Oberlin community in order to positively move towards the goal of carbon neutrality? On the table is a plan that will address both of these issues: the construction of a consolidated, high performance, carbon neutral K-12 campus.



Now, first, to answer the question on most people’s mind when there is a call of drastic change: why? Do we really need to stop using the current buildings which appear to be doing their job all for the sake of building a more environmentally friendly, singular building? And, easily, the answer is yes for quite a few reasons. The first of the reasons is simply the amount of space the current facilities take up. Currently, the space required by the State of Ohio in order to optimally function is 150 ft2 per student. In comparison, the Oberlin City School District exceeds this by over 66% at 250 ft2. The second would be the amount of money that will be saved in the long run, almost $1.25 million in savings on completion of the new building. And finally, the environmental impact on Oberlin would be significant.

The figures do not lie: the buildings as they stand are inefficient, and thus negatively contribute to the community’s push to become carbon neutral by the year 2050[1]. On average, Langston Middle School and Oberlin High School use 44500 kilowatts of energy in one month each. This equals 30 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions; the equivalent of the energy usage from 4.5 homes in one year. In a year’s time, each school puts out the equivalent of 54 homes worth of CO2 emissions. The story is similar when it comes to natural gas usage, which adds about 1 home to the total for each building. In other words, the four buildings (Prospect, Eastwood, Langston, and Oberlin HS) emit around 220 homes worth of CO2 emissions in one year’s time[2]. That's the equivalent of over 10% of the emissions from all homes in Oberlin! And that’s just the story with energy consumption. As with water, each school pumps out on average an Olympic-sized swimming pool worth of water a month[4], most of which is not cycled back through in a reusable way and no way to reduce the amount through obtaining rainwater.

How does a new school compare? The proposed 155,000 square foot school will include a high performance building envelope and HVAC to reduce the loss of heating and air conditioning and thus improve overall efficiency. Electrical power will be greatly reduced by obtaining power from the photovoltaic array and use of DC power to LED lights. The new school design will have a great focus on water retention by implementing an external system to store and reuse water. This will also allow for grey water return, or wastewater from dishwashing, hand washing, or other related tasks to be used for landscape irrigation. Another proposed use of the water is within the context of a living machine, or ecological wastewater treatment, to produce reuse-quality water and irrigation for plants.

The implementation of a “one school for all” building has been shown to be successful in a town with similar ideologies and statistics to Oberlin: Greensburg, Kansas[3]. After their town was virtually destroyed by a tornado in 2007, Greensburg took the initiative to find ways to not only guarantee the future of the town but also to do it in a more vibrant and sustainable way. One of the ways in which they planned to meet this goal was to design a school that meets the LEED for Schools Platinum standard. This includes 100% of the energy purchased from renewable sources, rainwater harvesting, and construction with recyclable materials. From all of the changes made, the school district saw a 71% decrease in overall energy usage as compared to all of the previous school buildings put together.

The need for improvement is obvious. But ultimately, the greatest impact that these changes will have is on the children who move through the Oberlin school system. A high performance building can enrich the educational experience of our students by instilling value of sustainability and dedication to a greater community. To this end, the newly established K-12 building would not only be a milestone for students in Oberlin, but to students throughout the nation by continuing to establish Oberlin as a standard for environmental prosperity.

]]> (Gabriel Moore) Education Fri, 05 Jul 2013 16:03:29 +0000
Environmental Dashboard 121111 HBD DashboardTeam

Technology to display video has come a long way since its start in the 1800’s. From analog to digital, VHS to BluRay, and even as you look at your computer, how we receive information (and entertainment) via a screen has changed drastically in order to make a more informed society. But are we informed about the right things in all the right places? While information about the world continues to grow and become more easily accessible, how about what’s happening in Tappan Square this weekend? Or what is my favorite local business doing on the sustainability front? How is the electricity and water I use daily moving through the City of Oberlin? With the launch of the new Environmental Dashboard at Prospect Elementary School and the Oberlin Public Library, this information will be more accessible and relevant to Oberlinians than ever.

Now, you, as I did, may be wondering what Environmental Dashboard really means. As stated in the mission statement by John Petersen, one of the developers of the technology, the “Environmental Dashboard is a set of technologies and approaches for monitoring, displaying and sharing information about environmental stewardship in our community.  This website brings together real-time information on environmental conditions and water and electricity flows through buildings through the city.  It combines these with the ideas, actions and images shared by community members.  The goal is to engage, celebrate and empower positive action.” While there appears to be many goals in this one statement, it all boils down to education and community. The dashboards are displayed on digital signs that will display the water and electricity use in buildings, as well as the city as a whole. Along with the physical signs, the information will also be accessible online on the interactive dashboard website. These tools help the owners of the dashboard be able to monitor their usage and make changes accordingly. Also, there will be messaging content displaying how people in various aspects of our community, such as schools, businesses, organizations, and public areas, are engaged in environmental stewardship. Lastly, there will be information relevant to the particular location of the dashboard and an events calendar detailing what is happening in the Oberlin area.

Currently, there are now three dashboard locations within the community: Slow Train Cafe, the Oberlin Public Library, and Prospect Elementary School. Though an elementary school seems like an unlikely venue for one of these screens, the installation of dashboard technology in Prospect is occurring together as part of a joint effort between the Oberlin City School District, the Oberlin Project, and the Michigan-based firm “Creative Change Educational Solutions” to enhance the focus on sustainability as part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum employed in the Oberlin City School District. Creative Change Educational Solutions, based in Michigan, is an organization recognized as a national leader in sustainability education. They have worked with many teachers and students in order to develop new opportunities for them to learn and lead in the sector of environmental stewardship. The teachers of Prospect are now using the knowledge they’ve obtained to work on materials that can used in the curriculum, including ways to incorporate the Environmental Dashboard.

One other thing that is also accomplished by the dashboard is the connection it makes to the community.  As one student from Oberlin College who assisted in the development of messaging content stated, “By engaging Prospect students directly in message development, we hope to nurture their interest in environmental issues and, more specifically, resource conservation.” Hearing  the voices of our upcoming generation and of the current one, I find, is a motivating force to bring people together in one common goal. It doesn’t take hearing from too many people to realize the Oberlin community’s dedication to resilience and sustainability in all of its various forms. Below are just some of the voices that were heard in the development of messaging content:


Every voice in unison, whether young or old, is ringing out to recognize what we are already doing as groups and individuals in a push for a more green, vibrant community. And, through the usage of the newly established Environmental Dashboards, the diverse community of Oberlin will be able to hear them and respond with their own. From this, we will be able to collaborate together, rather than individually, in a way that you wouldn’t think possible with your average display.

Want to see the Environmental Dashboard in action and more messaging like the ones shown above? Check out the one of the ones located outside of Slow Train or at the Oberlin Public Library to experience it yourself! Or visit the Dashboard website,

]]> (Gabriel Moore) Community Voices Thu, 11 Apr 2013 13:20:00 +0000
City Fresh comes to LCCC It may be the Southern boy in my heart, but the Collard Green festival in my hometown was always a highlight of my childhood. Everyone in the small, rural town would gather at the town hall and partake in a feast of all sorts of dishes, children would run around on the carnival rides, and it was a real town bonding experience. But the best part of it all was the fact that a majority of dishes brought were made with produce grown by local farms. This is probably why I was excited to hear that City Fresh, a local CSA (or community-supported agriculture) is continuing to push for local foods through a new partnership with Lorain County Community College (LCCC). Starting in June, weekly boxes of food from local farms is now available for subscribers to purchase at the new LCCC City Fresh stop.

City Fresh is a program of the New Agrarian Center, a non-profit organization that distributes locally grown seasonable vegetables and fruit to residents of Lorain, Cuyahoga, and Summit Counties. The majority of fruits and veggies are grown without the use of pesticides or genetic modifications, and even the vehicles that delivery produce use old vegetable oil. And you can guarantee that the supplies are fresh, as they are picked up within 24 hours of harvesting. Access to this incredible program has become even easier for residents of Lorain County with the establishment of the new pick-up location.

LCCC is not a newcomer when it comes to sustainability and local foods. David Cummings, Director of Auxiliary Services at LCCC, shared: “Through Chef Eric Petrus’ leadership we had formulated an idea for a farmers market to be held here on the LCCC campus in 2010.  At the time we were about to open our new dining facilities in College Center and the resources to make the market happen were simply not at hand.  When the New Agrarian Center (NAC) approached us about utilizing the campus as a farm stop it made great sense to us and was a win-win.  The NAC wanted a stop that was a central meeting spot for many within the county who might not have access to locally grown, sustainable agriculture, and we wanted a farmers market on campus so it was a perfect blending of talents and resources.”

LCCC also recently hosted the Northeast Ohio Local Food Summit, sponsored by the New Agrarian Center, and has formed a partnership with them in the purchase of local produce as well as providing raw materials for composting. Their dining hall, besides actively recycling, also uses a green container program in order to give students an initiative to get rid of polystyrene carryout containers.

Though future plans are being made, in the immediate future, having good solid participation in the farm stop program is what LCCC and City Fresh are looking for most. As they continue to push to be leaders in sustainability, I believe we as a community should get behind them 100% and support our local farmers so we too can have delicious feasts of local food.

The first orders for this year’s shipment of produce began June 7th and weekly deliveries will be made June 14th until October 25th or later, depending on the harvest. Want to get in on this program? Go to and sign up for your share of produce today! And if you have any favorite local food recipes you’d like to share, let us know in the comments section!

]]> (Gabriel Moore) Local Foods Tue, 07 Aug 2012 20:55:41 +0000
Going Local: Just Makes Sense After being in Oberlin for a full school year now, I’ve been fascinated by the local businesses and restaurants in town. All offer many goods and services at reasonable prices and still do very well, despite a Wal-Mart and several fast food restaurants located less than two miles away from downtown Oberlin. Sometimes, however, I wonder why I don’t just go down to Wal-Mart for convenience or their “low low prices.” And now, after listening to Michael Shuman’s passionate elegy for local investment, I no longer have that question to answer. And if I were a business owner, I’d listen up too. On April 10th, Michael Shuman, economist and prize-winning author, spoke at Oberlin College with the purpose of debunking myths about investing in your local community and promoting ways that Oberlin can get in on the action of supporting local business.

These myths actually seem credible at first glance. For example, one popular myth is that local businesses are not as profitable as their larger counterparts. As Shuman stated, “If it were true that local, small businesses were less competitive. . .then we would have seen a dramatic drop in the small business economy.” In fact, there has been no drop in the economy of home-based and local business compared to larger corporations. As Peter Buffett writes in the introduction to Shuman’s latest book, locally owned businesses have “maintained their share of the US GDP since 1990”. Another myth is that local businesses lack a competitive edge, which, again, is false. This can easily be seen with a concern for everyone: oil prices. Rising oil prices means that local production of oil for consumption in the immediate area will become more competitive as foreign imports become more expensive. Shuman argues similar consequences with durable products as well. And one just has to walk down Main Street of Oberlin to see local competitiveness in action.

Now, if these supposed cons are actually wrong, what are the pros of such an investment in local business? The first is more money in the community. An example of that was illustrated by comparing a local bookstore in Texas to Borders, a national chain bookstore. Shuman showed that in spending $100 at both of these establishments, the local bookstore would return $30 more dollars than Borders to the local community. Secondly, we would see an explosion of jobs in the community. Lorain County currently has approximately 13,800 people who are unemployed. Smart local economic growth through using leakage analysis, forming purchasing co-ops, eliminating policymaking with big business biases, and connecting people with local investment opportunities has the potential to create four times this number of new jobs.

So, now that those myths have been erased and you can see the possible benefits, you’re probably wondering (whether as a consumer or business owner) how you start the local investing process? Shuman said, “I would say that as I talk to communities around the country. . .the biggest issue that comes up again and again is the capital issue. The money issue.” As an illustration, let me ask you a question he asked the audience. Do you use a local bank for your day-to-day banking needs such as checking and/or savings? The answer is probably yes. Now, do you place long-term investments into local businesses or the local economy? If you were like the audience, the answer is probably no. Shuman states that where our capital goes is what really matters and the shift from Wall St. to Main St. must begin now. If just half of the money from Wall St. went to local business and the local economy, that would be a $15 trillion dollar shift. That’s $50,000 per capita! Just imagine, even if just a small percentage of this shift was made, the consequences not just for Oberlin, or even Lorain County, but for the entire state of Ohio!

But what about those pesky security laws? How can I, as a business owner, accept or, as a consumer, invest locally without violating these laws? Shuman gives a handful of ways that we can still go through with these investments. This can be accomplished through sponsorships (through sites like or or interest-free lending (with programs similar to, both of which are not considered securities. For businesses, pre-selling is a viable option where large quantities are sold upfront (like in an example from Shuman, a café in California pre-selling $1,200 worth of “future” coffee for $1,000). Local currencies, much like Oberlin College’s “ObieDollars” are also excellent ways of stimulating local businesses and earning rewards.

And these are just a few of many ways that we can begin local investing. Other intriguing options include working with local banks to issue specialty certificates of deposit that fund local ventures, creating a local stock market, and taking advantage of the newly signed JOBS act which pushes back some security laws. As Shuman said, “the treasure is in our backyards.” This is not a discussion that will die down, as could be seen by the full room in attendance at the talk. The only question remaining isn’t “Are we going to start investing locally?” The real question is “What are you going to do to start putting money into our local economy?”

Want more information or still want to get a better grasp of local spending? Check out Michael Shuman’s book Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity for sale at your local bookstore. Or watch his talk online!

]]> (Gabriel Moore) Resilient Economy Wed, 27 Jun 2012 20:07:54 +0000